There has been commentary by some scholars that the concept of chakras is a relatively new phenomenon within Hinduism; and there appears to be an implication that chakras were not known to the Vedic tradition. Regrettably, this appears to be part of a continuing effort to redefine
Hinduism, and to imply that Dharmist do not really understand their own teachings.
But, it is a legitimate question to ask, ‘Does the Vedas and Vedic teachings reference chakras?’
To investigate this query, initially the question one must ask is, ‘Does the word chakra even appear within the Vedas?’ Firstly, the word chakra is more commonly spelled in the Vedas as cakra meaning wheel, disk and circular.
The word cakra appears in the Rg Veda more than 29 times. But in reality, a language such as Vedic Sanskrit is rich in symbolic application, meaning there are numerous references to chakras within the Rg Veda far exceeding the 29 plus literal references to the word ‘chakra’.
The most obvious from the view of the tradition would be the numerous references to the number seven. While the Vedic homeland is the land of the ‘seven rivers’, aside from being a literal geographic reference, it is also a reference to the subtle body.
The land itself being the body and the seven rivers being a reference to the seven primary chakras and various groupings of nadi’s as well, as they in essence feed the land/body. David Frawley (Acharya Vamadeva Shastri) in his book Gods, Sages and Kings provides insight into this with a lovely translation from the Rg Veda:
“The Seven Gods have seven spears and seven lights. They hold seven glories.” (Rg Veda 8.28.5) Translated by David Frawley
Rg Veda 8.28.5 is a reference to the chakras and Devas associated with them. But the references are not limited to this one example; the Vedas continues to align with the group of seven chakras stating the ‘seven yoke the chariot that has one wheel’. (Frawley, Ibid) These references are not limited to merely seven wheels; it also extends to the concept of the ‘rays of light’ which is a relatively important concept within the Vedas.
Within the Vedic ritual, there is a Sankapha Mantra that commonly appears at the beginning of the yajna. Often this will include a statement as to where the ritual is really occurring, this will at times, include a reference to seven islands surrounded by a sea.
It is understood that these seven islands are a reference, on one level, to the chakras with the sea being the ethers. The imagery of the seven islands continued into the medieval period and is a common image in numerous yoga texts appearing in written form at that time, but the imagery would have been rooted in the Vedic teachings.
These islands are also associated with offerings pertaining to the Vedic ritual, which is why water, herbs and incense etc. are part of the rituals. Each physical item has a subtle representation within the astral body and/or chakra as well.
For example, the offering of Ghee (ghrita) is for clarity. The clarity is initially associated within the Sahasrara chakra and/or anahata chakra, and it is desired through kama dharma (the dharmic desire) that this clarity expand and spread to all chakras and levels of the mind.
The Vedangas such as Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) understood that the solar system was a chakra, as it was understood that multiple layers and manifestations of chakras exist reflected in the physical world as a reminder of the subtle essence behind creation, akin to concepts such as advaita (unity of all).
Within the Vedic astrological tradition, it is understood that there is a flow from the galactic center into the solar system, and this flow is distributed throughout the solar system.
Other analogies to this universal flow imagery so common within Hinduism would be the flow of Ganga to the earth, often depicted with images of Shiva, and the association of ‘toe of Vishnu’ with the pole star, which is protected by the Sapta Rishis (seven Rishis).
Other associations of the subtle chakra system from the Vedas are found with the nadi[i] system, as the yogic nadi’s Ida and Pingala are represented by the Vedic Yama and his sister Yami in the Vedas, also associated with these nadi’s would be the Sun and the Moon, as well as the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
The Nadi system is also found in the Ayurveda/Yoga tradition. Ayurveda is an upaveda (secondary or supplementary Vedas). One of the most important nadi’s would be the Sarasvati nadi, which is the same as the river in the Vedas. This nadi in subtle forms flows from the tailbone to the tip of the tongue, and is a reflection of the Goddess Sarasvati and her association with speech.
Another consideration of the subtle aspects would be the Ayurvedic marma tradition. While a marma can mean ‘a point’ or ‘a juncture’, it would be correct to say that some marmas may be more associated with physical locations; others are also understood to be vibratory centers in the astral body with physical markers used to identify their location. The source of this information originates from the Dhanur Veda, again revealing a deep and rich Vedic tradition long established with chakras, nadi’s and marmas.
The chakras association with the elements first appears in the Vedas with the Devas themselves, albeit in a somewhat veiled form. The following chart reveals the Deva, element and chakra relationship:
|Prithvi||Earth||Muladhara (1st chakra)|
|Apas||Water||Svadishthana (2nd chakra)|
|Agni||Fire||Manipura (3rd chakra)|
|Vayu||Air||Anahata (4th chakra)|
|Mitra/Varuna||Ether||Vishuddha (5th chakra)|
|Indra||N/A||Anja (6th chakra)|
|Vishvadevas||N/A||Sahasrara (7th chakra)|
Note: the Vedic tradition allows for various groupings of Devas with the chakras. This is one of many combinations.
Scholars might argue that one must not be ‘so loose’ in their interpretation of Vedic teachings, but using this analogy one must assume that the followers of Rishi Vajasaneya[ii] literally became partridges and literally ate the vomit he had thrown up, which of course is absurd.
The Vedas was always intended to be understood on a multitude of levels, and is subject to multiple levels of interpretation, as most of the deeper Vedic information is hidden and must be revealed through traditional teachers and contemplation.
Likewise, the scholar’s obsession with the dating of Vedas largely ignores that the tradition had a long oral tradition which predates any written form of the Vedas. The Vedas are a rich grouping of teachings and rich in symbolism; to miss this is to miss the beauty of the Vedas themselves. So while a chakra may literally be a reference to a wheel, it is understood within the tradition that it also has numerous additional meanings, one being the astral chakra.
[i] Nadi literally means stream, it can be elements of the nervous and circulatory system, but also refers to subtle streams within the astral body.
[ii] Rishi Vajasaneya was commanded to give back the Vedic information he had learned. He is purported to have thrown up the knowledge and his followers became partridges (Taittiriya) and consumed this knowledge.
By Yogi Baba Prem Th. D Yogacharya, Veda Visharada www.vedicpath.com
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